The Miracle of the Flowers: A Wedding Story

The Miracle of the Flowers: A Wedding Story

The wedding industry is a bully. It pressures¬†cash-strapped brides to have a Pinterest-perfect wedding no matter what the sacrifice. Add in a deeply entrenched Italian-American culture that says¬†parents must¬†provide for their daughter’s big day (or face eternal embarrassment), compounded with the fact that our Catholic families equaled over 250 people (not including friends), and you’ll start to get a picture of the impossible situation we found ourselves in when my darling James got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife.

I didn’t think I could¬†have one of those dream weddings. My parents had just sold our¬†home at short sale and we were living with my grandmother. James¬†hadn’t found¬†a full-time job yet. A traditional Italian wedding seemed impossible.

Impossible, but here’s the catch. God is Love. And with Love, all things are possible.

love

One day, during lunch, I went to a nearby church and prayed. I was doing that famous novena for James to get a job so we could get married. Yes, I wanted a nice wedding, but what I really wanted was to start a marriage with the man I love. I opened the hymnal to a random page, and it happened to be a song about marriage and the miracle at the wedding at Cana. That’s when it hit me:

Jesus would take care of it. His first miracle was making wine at a wedding to keep the party going. Not only would he find James a job so we could get married, but he would make sure we had a nice wedding, too.

cana

My parents are the ultimate fighting team when it comes to art projects. One Artist + One Engineer= Two brilliant, imaginative people who turn visions into reality. There’s really nothing that these two can’t do. And they channeled¬†their genius into my wedding.

My mom single-handedly made all of the favors. The programs were printed (by my dad!) on gorgeous parchment-style paper and bound in scrapbook paper and ribbons assembled by an in-house team of relatives and friends. My mom and sister made all the boutonnieres, bouquets and corsages out of gorgeous silk flowers a year in advance. We basically kept the glue-gun manufactures in business throughout the whole of 2012.

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One of our gorgeous DIY programs. We had an assortment of paper and ribbons so each one was unique.

Then came the unexpected gifts. My dress alterations and veil were all FREE¬†from a friend of my mother. My gorgeous and unique centerpieces were also done by another friend of my mother. The beautifully engraved cake-serving set and the elegant toasting flutes were gifts from my dear friends. That delicious¬†dessert buffet was a community effort on the part of our friends and family¬†who volunteered to bake their favorite sweets for our big day. And our dream honeymoon was a gift from James’s parents.

Jesus did it. He provided for our big day. Yes, he cares more about the marriage than the wedding, but he cares about the wedding too! There were so many examples of how his love poured through our friends and family and made our day amazing. And family was everywhere. The priest who married us was family. The altar boys were family. Even our wedding coordinator was family. We were completely overwhelmed by love.

And to top it all off…

Out of all these gifts and blessings, there was one little miracle, one gift that stood out as a reminder that ALL the gifts, big and small, were signs that Jesus was taking care of this wedding.

In an effort to curtail expenses, we had decided to forgo altar flowers. Those big, gorgeous arrangements¬†are very¬†expensive, and we just didn’t have the money. We decided that someone would run to Home Depot in the morning and get potted flowers to place around the altar.

In the rush of that morning, no one remembered to purchase our¬†little potted flowers. Oh well. Except when we arrived at the church…

There¬†were flowers on the altar!¬†Three huge, gorgeous, professional arrangements¬†that were the PERFECT colors for our wedding were on either side of¬†the tabernacle and in front of the altar. They’re in all of our pictures and they were incredible.

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See those GORGEOUS flowers on either side of the tabernacle? Those were the anonymous gift! There was a third arrangement in front of the altar. And of course, our wonderful priests (an uncle and a friend), and the bouquet my mom and sister made.

We have no idea where they came from. We’ve guessed that maybe one of our friends or relatives did this for us, but we will never know. Working through loving human beings, God made a miracle happen, and showed us his overwhelming, gratuitous love. As the Rite of Marriage says, “Christ abundantly blesses this love.” And he did. Like making wine out of water, the way our wedding came together was a beautiful, mysterious example of the overflowing love of God.

Two Years of Awesome

Two Years of Awesome

Two years ago today I married the love of my life, my James. So much has happened since then, and yet so much has stayed blissfully the same. Let’s do this in bullet point fashion.

  • We are still newlyweds. We still feel like newlyweds. We plan on always being newlyweds.
  • We still live in our lovely little house in Maryland. I still can’t keep up with it, but James can, and I’m¬†learning. (My parents are also a huge help.)Created with Nokia Smart Cam
  • We still have our adorable little bunny, Brownie. He loves his Nana and his favorite uncle is Luke.¬†Brownsters
  • We’ve been on 3 major trips together: St. Thomas, The American Southwest, and England

    Canterbury Tales
    We made it to Canterbury!
  • We’ve changed our eating habits together and are now both devotedPaleo/Whole30 people.

    Breakfast
    Mornings on the deck are my favorite part of summer.

Here are some things we’ve learned:

  • Marriage is an awesome gift. The grace from the sacrament is real, tangible and life changing.
  • Infertility is a B*tch. We’ve learned so much about grief and emotional suffering.
  • Adoption is confusing. When should we start? Should we ever? Do we have another vocation?
  • Spending Sundays together as our “family day” is one of the best and most important things we do.
  • Living as a family of 2 is beautiful, wonderful and rewarding. We’re just not sure if God has other plans for us or not.
  • It’s ok and normal to be in different places in your spiritual journey. Just remember to always¬†lift each other up.

The last two years have been the best time of my life. Marriage is everything I hoped it would be, and more. I know that this is rare, a real blessing and nothing short of a miracle. I pray that in the years to come we can remember what we know now: that we’re on the same road, even though sometimes we’re looking out different windows.

Happy 2nd Anniversary to my best friend and love of my life, James. ‚̧

A Letter From the Girl in the Pew

A Letter From the Girl in the Pew

Hi, it’s me. Can we talk? Remember that homily you preached at that wedding about a year ago? You know, the one where you said in a booming voice from the pulpit,

“The purpose of marriage, really, is children.”

Yes, that’s the one. Remember how you went on and on backing up that point?¬†Remember how at the reception later, people were telling you how great it was, how true, how important? Remember how I stood there in that circle and nodded, agreeing that you have a gift for wedding homilies?

I lied.

Yes, I lied to a priest. To spare your feelings, of course.

I hated your homily that day. It wasn’t even my wedding, so why should I care?

Because it Hurt. Like. Hell.

You knew I was in the pew. You knew that I have MRKH. You knew that my husband and I will never be able to conceive.¬†Was it your intention to say that our marriage has no purpose? That¬†our marriage is useless? Or ¬†that maybe it’s just second class? Were you¬†trying to make us feel unwelcome and unneeded?

It may not seem like much to you, but to me it was a complete betrayal. You’ve told us to “be happy for others” but do you realize what you’re saying?

When Jesus carried his cross,¬†he didn’t do it with a smile. And I’ll bet that when he fell, his comfort was not in the Romans yelling at him to get up and keep moving. You wouldn’t tell Jesus to quit saying¬†“Why have you abandoned me?”¬†and just be happy for those people who get to not be crucified today, would you?

Now of course, I’m not Jesus. I don’t claim to be. But like him (and like you), I have a cross. We all do.

You wouldn’t tell an amputee with phantom pain to be happy for everyone who still has all of their limbs. When your friend suffers an abusive relationship, you don’t tell them to be happy for everyone whose heart was never broken. No, no one would say that because it misses the point and ignores the wounds that these people carry. We all deserve compassion and understanding. We all deserve to be loved.

We love you very much. Perhaps that is why this hurts so much.

And in case you would like a little reminder, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (paragraph 1660) that marriage has TWO purposes: (1) the good of the spouses and (2) the generation and education of children. These are both true, and we cannot overemphasize and ignore one or the other. If children were all that mattered, then my marriage wouldn’t be valid, and IVF would be encouraged. If the spouses were all that mattered, then we wouldn’t have to be “open to life”. Both matter. Both are important.

Otherwise, our struggle is in vain.

The Year of Wandering

The Year of Wandering

Trying to assess 2014 for the Connie Ann household is a tough one.¬†There were no major milestones or changes. Our cars kept running, our jobs kept paying, and the sun kept rising over the CA Observation Deck. Brownie continues to be simultaneously adorable and troublesome. It’s a good thing he’s cute.

We hosted a number of parties, including a family New Year’s Day lunch, a Memorial Day cookout, a late-summer s’mores party and a Christmas movie night. We attended 4 weddings: 2 in Maryland, 1 in Nevada and 1 in the beautiful mountains of Western New Jersey.

We took numerous weekends to Williamsburg, VA, and celebrated the 4th of July in the true spirit of 1776. We went to Jamestown and learned about the hardships of the earliest European Americans. We ate cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. We went on our Great Western Adventure and saw Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

We celebrated our first anniversary with a weekend staycation involving Mount Vernon, a stroll in Ellicott City and dinner in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The next day we said goodbye to Skippy, my beloved childhood pet dutch bunny. He was 13, and very much loved.

2014 was a year of wandering. I wrote so much about my spiritual journey and the cross of permanent infertility. I spent a lot of time thinking about my purpose in life. We had very high highs and some deep lows, but both were spent side by side. It was a win for marriage. We don’t know where we are going, when or if we will adopt, or what our purpose is. I truly feel like a wandering soul. And even though I don’t know if the next year will bring any of the answers I seek, I do know that with James standing by me, it doesn’t matter. We will get where we are going, though we do not know the way.

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Romans 8:28

Lights, Canyons, Action!

Lights, Canyons, Action!

Dreams are so important. I really think God inspires dreams and goals within us to give us something good to focus on in the midst of chaos. I don’t just mean the big dreams. Smaller goals such as learning to knit, to speak a new language, to play an instrument, to write a novel are all beautiful little sparks of light within us. They do so much good for the soul in the best of times, and even more so in the worst.

Today I was thinking back on my travel bucket list from 2012. Since then I’ve really only knocked one off¬†the list: the Caribbean. We had a wonderful time in St. Thomas, and we hope to go back someday soon.

Here’s one Bucket List trip that may not be on the original post, but definitely deserves to be there:

We’re heading out west to see the Grand Canyon and the Pacific coast in southern California! Neither of us have been out west before. We’re attending a wedding in Las Vegas, so we figured it’s the perfect time to do this Great Western Adventure.

Day 1- Arrive in Las Vegas, NV. See the Strip. Go to the rehearsal dinner. See more Vegas at night.

Las_Vegas_Wiki

Day 2- The wedding isn’t until the evening, so we figured we could go see Red Rock Canyon. Does anyone know if it would be possible to see the Hoover Dam this day too?

red rock

Day 3- Mass in the AM followed by the rest of the day exploring Death Valley National Park. Come back to our Vegas hotel at night.

death_valley_01

Day 4- Wake up super early and drive to THE GRAND CANYON!!! Sleep nearby in Flagstaff, AZ.

GrandCanyon

Day 5- Wake up early again and drive to the Pacific!!! Staying in Southern California.

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Day 6- Restful day in SoCal, on the coast.

orange-county-beach

Day 7- Drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, want to see Big Sur. Explore. Staying overnight.

BigSur1

Day 8- Drive back down to LA. Last night in California.

LA

Day 9- Fly home to Maryland. From one Bay State to Another.

maryland_flag1

I’m so excited for this trip! Does anyone have any suggestions on things to do, things to see and places to eat?

The Beginning

The Beginning

Once Upon a Time on June 1, 2013, I married my true love, James. We had a beautiful wedding with 200 of our closest family and friends. Even though we had so many people, to us it felt small and intimate. Having¬†James’s uncle, a priest, as the¬†celebrant¬†made it all the more moving. James’s cousins were the altar servers, and our siblings, cousins, niece and nephew¬†were the attendants. For our dedication to the¬†Blessed Virgin, we used a rose from¬†James’s grandfather’s¬†funeral. My sister sang “The Servant Song” after Communion. We were surrounded by our family. It was perfect.

The Bells of St. Patrick's
The Bells of St. Patrick’s

We were so unbelievably happy on that day and we’ve been glowing ever since.

We honeymooned¬†on St. Thomas, USVI. It was Amazing. Capital “A”.¬†Neither of us had ever been to the Caribbean. We were more than impressed. When we weren’t lounging at the Marriott resort, we were exploring the 17th century Danish sights and hunting down postcard beaches. The day we spend on St. John was my favorite.

Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI
Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI

One more place crossed off the bucket list! I suppose I’ll have to do a travel post soon.

A few weeks after we came home, we went to Avalon, NJ with all of¬†our aunts, uncles, and cousins on James’s side.

Our Family in Avalon, NJ
Our Family in Avalon, NJ

It was probably the best beach vacation I’ve ever had, excluding our honeymoon, of course. I love our family so much and it was such a wonderful experience to spend so much time with them.

I know we’re not even 3 months in yet, but I have to say that I feel so blessed. I have a wonderful husband and the best family in the whole wide world. ūüôā

Three Blessings of a Long Engagement

Our wedding is finally upon us! I don’t know which is more exciting: our wedding (in 17 days!!), our honeymoon (St. Thomas!!!), or finally getting to live in our¬†beautiful home¬†together.

Looking back over our 2 year engagement, there is¬†so much to be thankful for. At the onset, I was not¬†excited about having to wait 2 more years after having been¬†dating for over 3 already. Now that all this time is behind us, I’ve seen how God has really worked in our lives over the last few years.

First,¬†we were able to buy a house. True, we do not live together, and 10 months of owning a home and letting my fianc√© live there¬†without me¬†has not been the most “fun” thing in the world. But, it gave us something to look forward to. It gave us security knowing where we are going to live after the wedding. And it gave us experience in sharing the duties and expenses of running a household. It was definitely an adjustment. The first few months were the most difficult, getting used to all of this. But now that it’s been almost a year, we’ve gotten the hang of things, and we’re happy.

Second, we were able to focus on preparing for our marriage, not just the wedding. We took our time with our Pre-Cana (marriage prep that Catholic couples go through). We met with a lovely couple on Sunday mornings after church. They would make us breakfast, and then we would take our coffee into their sunroom to discuss the big issues: marriage commitment, loving one another, faith, money, children, in-laws, and anything else we could think of. It was a wonderful, positive experience that we will cherish forever.

Finally, over the course of the last 2 years, our relationship with both sets of parents has developed. Not only did we adjust to our newly established permanence, but our parents had the time they needed to adjust to their children growing up and being married.

I still do not recommend 2 year engagements for everyone. In our case, I still don’t think we even needed it. But seeing the blessings that have come thanks to the added time, I am glad that things worked out the way they did.

2013: The Best is Yet to Come

2012 began with a morning stroll down a quiet Duke of Gloucester Street with James. It was unseasonably warm, and the blue sky and warm sun filled us with hope and excitement. After 12 months of various ups and downs, and learning to adjust to my new identity, the year ended with a crackling fire in the cozy basement of our darling new house.

The holiday season was very good to us this year. We decked our newly purchased halls and had a merry time doing it. We hosted our first holiday party (2 in fact) and hung our first outdoor lights. We each had a birthday, and it seemed the whole month was one long feast of merriment. Most importantly, this Christmas season gave us an opportunity to step away from all the stress and think about all the wonderful things that we have done this year.

Strangely, the night before my 25th birthday, I found myself in a state of panic. “I’ll never be 24 again,” I said to myself. “How is it that my 20s are slipping by? What have I to show for it?” Silly, I know. I’m engaged, I have degree, and I own a single family home. Not to mention the numerous bucket list items I have fulfilled already. Still, that night I felt so much anxiety, like none of that had mattered at all and that I wasn’t good enough. I had spent so much of 2012 worrying about jobs and money that I hadn’t spent near enough time enjoying my life.

So, I have resolved to spend the New Year of 2013 being happy. Actually, I have 3 resolutions this year. First, to enjoy my house more, as that is the only reason I trudge through my job each day. Second, to grow deeper in my Catholic faith and read more spiritual literature, both alone and with James. Third, I’ll be keeping to Jorge Cruise’s eating method the entire year. My dad lost 40 lbs in 2012 by eating like Jorge, so I’ve decided to do the same. My plan is that these three small resolutions will feed off of each other and grow into a better-adjusted, happier me.

So much good is set to happen this year. In less than 5 months, I will finally marry the love of my life, and I will finally get to live in the home we are building together. Following the teachings of our Faith and living apart has not been easy by any stretch, but engagement is almost over now, and we know our sacrifice will make things all the more wonderful when our marriage finally begins. I’m so happy that 2013 is finally here, and that the best is yet to come. I’ll be seeing you.

From Darkness to Light

Last night was our first Halloween with the new house. I made my mom’s apple cider, we handed out candy to Trick or Treaters, and then we promptly shut it down at 8 to watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” on ABC.¬†I had so much fun! It¬†was a perfect Halloween.

At one point, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if we had children. Would they look forward to their mom’s apple cider as much as I did? Would they want to¬†dress as¬†princesses or vampires? Would Charlie Brown be a sacred event for them as well?

That was October 31. And now it’s November. It’s time to¬†put aside¬†the bad stuff for a while¬†and start counting the things we’re thankful for. Good ol’ Bing Crosby¬†had it right¬†(I’m telling you, White Christmas is definitely one of those feel-good movies to keep on hand year-round).

What am I thankful for today?¬†I’m thankful that I was born into a loving and supportive family. I’m thankful for generous soon-to-be¬†in-laws. I’m thankful we bought a¬†beautiful¬†house this year (with a library in walking distance!!).

Most of all, I am thankful that in exactly 7 months from today, I will be marrying my best friend and the love of my life. It certainly doesn’t get any better than that.

Marriage Advice from a Pumpkin Patch

I told James that I wasn’t going to be happy this Fall until I had carved a pumpkin, baked a pie, and raked leaves. Check numbers 1 and 2.

My Jack-O-Lantern of 2012

We got our darling pumpkin from a redneck on the side of the road. First thing he says when we pull up is, “So who’s paying?” When we said that I was the one with the cash, he said “It’s always that way with young people. The girl pays and the guy’s just standing there.” “Well it’s all both our money anyway,” we said. “Oh, are y’all married?” “Almost,” we answered.

So began the conversation. He told us about how he and his wife divorced after 10 years and then became best friends until she was struck by a car and died. You could see the heartbreak in his watery blue eyes. He told us that the worst thing you can do in a marriage is be jealous. “If y’all go to a party, doesn’t matter who she’s talking to, as long as she leaves with you that’s fine.”

I guess the moral of the story is that marriage is hard enough, so don’t sweat the small stuff. Like my grandfather used to say, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half-shut after.” What is it about “forever” that makes people start getting petty and forgetting their friendship? I hope we always remember that we are best friends, and that nothing is ever more important than this.